Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that parents can easily overlook as their child grows older. It is easy to mistaken a toddler’s hyperactivity as natural for his or her age. Short attention spans are a common occurrence or complaint as well among adolescents as they go through school. But at the same time, we don’t want our children to suffer from the consequences of an undiagnosed condition. They could end up struggling with consistent inattention, an inability to be organized, and unable to properly control their impulses into adulthood.
The good news is, as early as now, you can start preventing ADHD from occurring in your child. There are natural treatment methods and practical methods that a child can utilize to manage the struggles that come with ADHD. However, before I explain more about some of the holistic treatments, I will discuss the symptoms you should be diligent about looking for in a rambunctious child. I will also explain more about the causes behind this disorder, and how parents can prevent ADHD in their children.
The Kinds of ADHD
ADHD is classified under three kinds of patterns. The first is inattention, which is when the mind tends to wander off, is disorganized, and lacks focus. Since this is a disorder, inattentiveness does not occur out of rebellion or the inability to understand instructions.
The second type of ADHD is impulsivity or hasty actions, that happen in the moment and without any thought. These actions are made out of desire for immediate rewards and/or are usually harmful to the person. Choices are also made without weighing the long-term consequences or how it will affect the individual. Some impulsivity manifestations include: social intrusiveness and a tendency to always interrupt others.
Hyperactivity is the third kind of ADHD, where the individual tends to move a lot, especially in inappropriate situations. Adults manifest hyperactivity through constant activity and extreme forms of restlessness.
What Causes ADHD
To prevent ADHD, parents can already avoid habits that can increase the condition’s chance in their children. A healthy mother will likely have a healthy baby, so stop bad habits, such as smoking, constant alcohol consumption, or unhealthy food habits. If you have a baby, be sure to minimise any exposure to toxic lead to your child. It is also important to feed your baby properly, as low birth weight has also been attributed to causing ADHD.
Symptoms of ADHD
ADHD’s symptoms depend on the type I previously discussed. Often, we may observe these symptoms before a doctor is able to diagnose the child’s type of ADHD. Here are the symptoms to look out for and classified under the ADHD type, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
Symptoms of inattention are:
- Not listening when spoken to
- Unable to pay attention to details; a tendency to miss or overlook them and make careless mistakes
- Inability or limited ability to sustain attention during for example, conversations, plays, or long periods of time
- Inability to follow instructions and finish school work or other duties
- Challenged from organizing activities or executing things in sequence and keeping things in order
- Aversion to tasks that have long, sustained mental effort like homework or writing term papers
- Losing important things for school and for personal use
- Forgetfulness in everyday tasks, like chores and errands; easily distracted
Symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity are as follows:
- Tendency to fidget in one’s seat
- Runs and dashes around in inappropriate situations or places
- Inability to be quiet during activities
- Tendency to always be in constant motion
- Tends to leave their seat or position when staying still is expected, most especially in the classroom
- Nonstop talking and replying to a question, even before the person is finished with the question; tendency to finish another person’s sentence or speaking out of turn
- Tendency to interrupt or intrude others in games, activities, and conversations
Safe Ways to Address and Prevent ADHD
As I emphasized earlier, there is a tendency for us to believe some of these symptoms could be normal for their age. It is best to consult a medical professional, so he or she can make a proper diagnosis. As a parent, however, it is also our responsibility to take measures that will prevent these symptoms from occurring and possibly getting worse over time. Medication stimulants are usually prescribed to treat ADHD, but these drugs will not help young preschoolers. Susan Campbell, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Pittsburgh who has done extensive research on the disorder for over thirty years, is opposed to young children taking ADHD medication. She says that there is no knowledge on how it will affect their brain development. A study funded by the NIMH reports how medicated ADHD children experienced side effects such as appetite loss, anxiety, emotional outbursts, and insomnia. None of these side effects actually help with the limitations children experience with ADHD.
How to Establish a Healthy Diet
Instead of depending on medication, it is recommended to start your kids on a healthy diet, including foods that will prevent the symptoms of ADHD. Here are some tips that will help you get started on giving your children the healthiest meals, for both ADHD and preventing other conditions.
- Stock up on healthy fats. Don’t encourage or even introduce fried fats and trans fats, that can be found in fast food, sweets and ice cream, to your children. Stick to essential or healthy fats that can be easily found in for example: avocados, wild caught salmon, walnuts, chia seeds, sardines, and green leafy vegetables.
- Include more colorful fruits and vegetables in each meal. Keep your plates filled with colors such as green, purple, blue, red, violet, and yellow. In other words, add more fruits and vegetables to your family’s meal. Foods, such as: red bell peppers, yellow squash, and blueberries contain a lot important nutrients. They also enrich your body with antioxidants that protect your brain from free radicals.
- Flavor it all up with delicious herbs and spices. Convincing your kids to eat healthy food can be a challenge. However, by adding fresh and organic herbs and spices, you will be able to serve them a delicious meal in no time. Spices, such as: turmeric, saffron, cinnamon, rosemary, thyme, sage, garlic, and oregano do not only add flavour to your dish, they also have a positive effect on the brain, which can help your child in his or her cognitive development. Rosemary, sage, and thyme, can boost your memory, while saffron extract has been observed to influence mood levels. Turmeric decreases brain plaques, while garlic, oregano, and cinnamon encourage blood flow to the brain.
- Keep it organic. It is also important to consume only organically grown food. Avoid fruits, vegetables, proteins, and other ingredients that come from commercial farming, as they may contain toxic substances that are detrimental to your child’s health.
- Eliminate sugar, eggs gluten, dairy, artificial preservatives and food coloring from your family’s diet. By now you are probably well aware how dangerous sugar is for your children. Apart from sugar, you need to eliminate everything else listed above. A study conducted in the Netherlands, demonstrated how removing these items and foods with these components, were able to improve symptoms in 70 percent of children with ADHD.
Other Treatment Methods for ADHD Prevention
A healthy diet is not the only solution to preventing and treating ADHD effectively. It is as important to complement healthy meals, with a balanced lifestyle, which includes meditation, more exposure to nature etc. These methods also address the underlying problems of ADHD, such as lack of focus and prolonged concentration.
First, it is important to encourage your children to be at ease with nature. If you live in the city, you can increase their exposure to natural surroundings during the weekends or just bring them to accessible parks and gardens more often. University of Illinois researcher, Frances Kuo, Ph.D. revealed evidence that linked time spent in nature to a better ability to focus among individuals with ADHD. Nature encourages attentiveness, which most of us have experienced ourselves, when looking at the sea or at mountains. By exposing your children to more nature, they are able to build a foundation of attentiveness, which they can apply to tasks that require a long attention span, such as: writing papers, reading, and solving equations.
Meditation is another effective way to encourage attentiveness and strengthen concentration. This practice entails mindfulness, which aims to build awareness of our lives and the world around us. I highly encourage beginning this practice in your family, as it can not only improve and/or prevent ADHD, but also greatly benefit your child’s cognitive development. A study conducted at the University of California (UCLA), reported how children who were behind in executive function improved after undergoing a mindfulness program. Mindfulness and meditation also encourages children to become more compassionate. Yoga is a great way to introduce your child to the basics of mindfulness and meditation. Breathing exercises alone encourage enhanced levels of concentration, while yoga pose encourage attentiveness to their body. From a healthy diet, yoga, meditation, to nature walks, ADHD prevention and treatment methods are also meaningful ways for the family to bond and become closer together.